The Antiquities Act and America's National Monuments

A timeline of milestones

Navigate to:

The Antiquities Act and America's National Monuments
Statue of Liberty
Getty Images

The Antiquities Act, which became law in 1906 after years of debate, has played a rich and enduring role in protecting our nation’s history and heritage. In 1976, Congress reaffirmed its intention to provide the president with land protection authority when it passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The Antiquities Act has been used by 17 presidents from both parties and, more than 100 years after it was created, continues to be a landmark law to safeguard special places for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.


Library of Congress

Congress passes the Antiquities Act, giving presidents the power to designate national monuments.


President Roosevelt designates the 639,200-acre Mount Olympus National Monument, WA.


President Woodrow Wilson reduces the Mount Olympus National Monument by 313,280 acres.1


The U.S. Supreme Court upholds President Roosevelt’s designation of Grand Canyon National Monument in Cameron v. United States.2


Seal hunters in Glacier Bay
Edward Curtis Library of Congress


President Calvin Coolidge establishes the 1,379,316-acre Glacier Bay National Monument, AK.


Joshua Tree National Park
Getty Images


President Herbert Hoover designates the 1,601,800-acre Death Valley National Monument, CA.


Death Valley National Park
Steve Whiston Fallen Log/Getty Images


President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the 825,340-acre Joshua Tree National Monument, CA.


President Roosevelt designates the 221,000-acre Jackson Hole National Monument, WY.


Jackson Hole


A U.S. District Court upholds the establishment of Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming v. Franke.3


Congress passes the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) and leaves the Antiquities Act untouched.4


The U.S. Supreme Court finds that the Antiquities Act gives the president authority to protect species and habitat as “objects of scientific interest” in Cappaert v. United States.


Misty Fjords National Monument
Chip Porter Getty Images


President Jimmy Carter uses the Antiquities Act to create 17 national monuments, providing interim protection for 56 million acres of public land in Alaska.


The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska holds that the National Environmental Policy Act does not apply to a president’s actions under the Antiquities Act.


The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) provides additional conservation for many lands protected by President Carter under the Antiquities Act.


President Bill Clinton establishes the 1,700,000-acre Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, UT


Federal legislation to limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act fails in Congress.

Stephen Jaffe AFP/Getty Images


President Clinton establishes the 327,769-acre Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA


Federal legislation to limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act fails in Congress.


President George W. Bush requests that the Interior Department review all national monuments designated by President Clinton.


Interior Secretary Gale Norton reviews Clinton monuments, recommends no changes.


Federal court upholds President Clinton’s designation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Tulare County v. Bush.5


Federal court upholds designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.6


Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images


President Bush designates the 582,578-square-mile Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean.


Rose Atoll Marine National Monument
Ian Shive USFWS


President Bush designates the 13,436-square-mile Rose Atoll National Monument in the Pacific Ocean.


President Barack Obama establishes the 496,330-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, NM.


President Obama designates the 704,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument, NV.



President Obama designates the 1,600,000-acre Mojave Trails National Monument, CA.



President Obama establishes the 1,350,000-acre Bears Ears National Monument, UT.


President Donald Trump directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 land and marine monuments designated since 1996. Zinke releases final report of review of monument designations.


President Trump announces significant reductions to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante national monuments in Utah.


President Trump designates Camp Nelson National Monument in Kentucky.


  1. The courts were never asked to rule on the president’s authority to reduce the national monument.
  2. The decision established that the Grand Canyon is an object of scientific interest and confirmed the use of executive authority to protect it.
  3. The Supreme Court upheld President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s designation of Jackson Hole National Monument and found that courts have “limited jurisdiction to investigate and determine” whether a presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act is unreasonable.
  4. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) repealed the executive branch’s public lands withdrawal authority in 29 statutes. Congress also prohibited the secretary of the interior from modifying or revoking any monuments created by executive action under the Antiquities Act.
  5. The federal court held that the protection of ecosystems and scenic vistas is an appropriate use of the president’s Antiquities Act authority, which “is not limited to protecting only archeological sites.”
  6. The federal court rejected claims that the monument was too large and that the Antiquities Act was intended to be limited to protecting man-made objects.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.